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DUFF v. COUGHLIN

July 27, 1992

WILLIAM T. DUFF, Plaintiff, against THOMAS A. COUGHLIN III, Commissioner, N.Y. Department of Correctional Service; STEPHEN DALSHEIM, Superintendent, Downstate; DONALD McLAUGHLIN, First Deputy Superintendent, Downstate; SAWYER, PUCHER, Correctional Officers, Downstate Correctional Facility, Defendants.

VINCENT L. BRODERICK, U.S.D.J.

Before this court is plaintiff's civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 against defendant Thomas A. Coughlin, III, ("Coughlin"), Commissioner of the New York State Department of Correctional Services; Stephen Dalsheim ("Dalsheim"), Superintendent at Downstate Correctional Facility ("Downstate); Donald McLaughlin ("McLaughlin"), First Deputy Superintendent at Downstate, and Correction Officers Sawyer ("Sawyer") and Pucher ("Pucher"). The plaintiff alleges that his Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when his legal materials allegedly were destroyed. *fn1" He asserts that the defendants were part of a conspiracy to impede his access to the courts. Plaintiff seeks judgment against each defendant and monetary damages.

I.

 Plaintiff entered and was processed at Downstate on February 4, 1988. *fn2" His property was searched by defendants Sawyer and Pucher. All unauthorized property was either destroyed or shipped home at plaintiff's expense in the amount of $ 1.34. *fn3" The UPS Pickup Record indicated that a package was sent to Hubbard at P.O. Box 1341 Riverhead, New York on February 5, 1988 at 4:00 o'clock p.m. *fn4"

 On February 9, 1988 plaintiff filed a grievance claiming that correction officers Sawyer and Pucher deliberately threw away his legal materials. Affidavit in support of Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, Exhibit D.

 The Inmate Grievance Review Committee ("IGRC") reviewed the plaintiff's grievance and reached a deadlocked decision on or about February 17, 1988 concerning what action, if any, was to be taken. The IGRC noted a discrepancy between Officer Sawyer's statement, in which it was asserted that the plaintiff's legal work was not his own and was therefore in the papers shipped home with plaintiff's other unauthorized property, *fn5" and the Authorization for Disposal of Personal Property Form (the "Property Form") *fn6" which did not indicate that legal material was contained in the package sent to the plaintiff's home.

 On February 19, 1988, after plaintiff's processing into the New York State Correctional System was completed, he was transferred to Great Meadow Correctional Facility.

 On February 29, 1988, Superintendent McLaughlin wrote to the IGRC accepting the grievance for consideration since it pertained to institutional policy matters and to an inmate's right of access to the courts. McLaughlin stated that in light of the amount of postage paid to send the package, it must have contained "more than one certificate and a few emery boards." McLaughlin's letter noted that plaintiff told the IGRC that his family had a duplicate copy of all his legal work. *fn7"

 Plaintiff informed the IGRC that the package which contained his property never reached its destination. On May 12, 1988 the Central Office Review Committee ("CORC") stated that plaintiff's grievance request for the return of his legal papers would be accepted to the extent that Downstate would attempt to trace the package. A shipping tracer form dated June 1, 1988 indicated that the package sent to the "Riverhead, New York address" was returned to Downstate on February 17, 1988. However, Downstate correction personnel were unable to locate the package.

 On or about August 28, 1988 the CORC and the New York State Commission of Correction reviewed the policy regarding what constitutes an inmate's own legal work, and stated that higher level supervisory personnel should make such decisions rather than correction officers.

 On or about December 28, 1988 Commissioner Coughlin concurred with the determination of the New York State Commission of Correction. On March 2, 1989 a new policy and a new form were implemented, for use in ascertaining if legal material which an inmate possesses upon entering a correctional facility truly belongs to that inmate.

 II.


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